There are many types of headphones, and if you understand the pros and cons of each before you go shopping, you'll make a more informed buying decision. Closed- and open-back headphones sound very different and serve different needs. To learn more about how they differ I spoke with two engineers, Sennheiser's Axel Grell and AKG's Philipp Schuster, and thanks go out to them. Today I'll look at open- and closed-back headphones; I covered on- and over-the-ear headphones in yesterday's blog item.… Read more
I get a lot of reader emails seeking recommendations for headphones, and sometimes they'll ask about two very different types of designs. For example, "What should I buy, Sennheiser's on-ear Momentum or the AKG K 712 'phones?" In that case there's no obvious "better" headphone, because they are two radically different types of headphones. The Sennheiser is an on-ear, closed-back design, and the AKG K 712 is a much larger over-the-ear, open-back headphone. It's like asking "What's better, a Ford F-150 Raptor truck or a Porsche 911 Turbo sports car? … Read more
The vinyl boom isn't slowing. Here in NYC, Rough Trade opened a new 15,000-square-foot record store, and the display space is evenly split between LPs and CDs. Vinyl sales were up 18 percent in 2012, and that growth continued in 2013.
To get the best sound from an LP, you need a decent turntable, and the $179 U Turn Orbit I reviewed a few months ago would be a great place to start. The $449 Rega RP1 turntable will get you even closer to audiophile nirvana.
After you buy a nice 'table the next question will be, how … Read more
Meridian Audio may be one of Britain's oldest high-end audio brands. It was founded in the late 1970s, but it was always exploring new technologies. It introduced the world's first high-end CD player in 1984, advanced the state of the art in self-powered speakers, and pioneered digital loudspeakers. The company also developed the lossless compression technology used in many Blu-ray Discs.
So when I heard Meridian was introducing a high-end headphone amplifier, I immediately requested a review sample. When the box arrived, I thought they had sent the wrong piece, it was too small to be a contender, … Read more
Five years ago I wrote about a homeless man in California who wanted to start a speaker company. That man, Kevin Nelson, dared to be different: his speakers could produce stereo sound from a single box. He was way ahead of his time -- nowadays millions of Bluetooth speakers claim the same thing. But Nelson's speakers do a more convincing job of creating stereo. Nelson started working on the stereo from one speaker idea in 1989 and spent years perfecting the concept. He cooked up the name Zealth Audio early on and stuck with it.
Some time after I … Read more
If you've laid down serious cash for a great pair of headphones but they're plugged into your phone or computer, you're missing out on a lot of the sound quality you paid for. Don't get me wrong, phones and tablets can sound acceptable, but their designers didn't focus on sound quality -- that's the last thing they worry about. The cure for so-so sound is straightforward: invest in a high-performance digital converter/headphone amp, like the Cypher Labs Theorem 720. It can be used with iPhones, Android phones, or computers via USB connection with … Read more
Audiophiles love tube amplifiers; a sizable percentage of us own tube-based systems. It's easy to see why; tube amps look a lot more interesting than solid-state amps, and second, they sound different than solid-state. There's more character to the sound, and you can change the sound of a tube amp by swapping one brand of tubes for another. Sometimes a new $5 tube can light up your Wilco records in ways you never heard before.
Some tube amplifiers sound warm and rich, and some sound a lot like solid-state amps; Decware amps are right down the middle. The … Read more
The timing of my visit was perfect, I strolled into Alex DeTurk's studio at Masterdisk just as he was cutting an LP. DeTurk was moving to the music, totally engaged with the sound as the big record mastering lathe was literally cutting the groove into the disc. After the side was complete he examined the grooves with a microscope. DeTurk then said, "Vinyl is the most consumer-friendly high-resolution format around." Right, more people are buying LPs than true high-resolution 24 bit/192 kHz files, the ones that can sound better than CD-quality FLAC or Apple Lossless files. … Read more
As soon as I spotted the Aedle VK-1 headphones on the Web, I just had to check them out. That was early last year; e-mails were exchanged, and there were delays along the way, but now that I have them I'm happy to report they sound as good as they look. Aedle designs and manufactures the VK-1 in Paris, France.
I've had the VK-1 for a while; Aedle's founder Raphael Lebas was in NYC a few months ago and hand-delivered the headphones to me. He's a young guy, but totally focused on the job at hand. … Read more
Earplugs are the best way to protect your hearing in loud environments, but sometimes they do their job too well. They muddle the sound, so music sounds dull, or you can't understand people talking around you. I've used earplugs for decades; my first set was custom-molded to my ears, and while they were highly effective, the hard plastic plugs were uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time. So I moved onto inexpensive, but comfy foam plugs that quelled the noise almost as well, but they totally muffled the sound. Foam earplugs can be frustrating to use at … Read more